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Future fears for child poverty

29 October 2014

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Peter Whiteford is a Professor in the Crawford School. He works on child poverty, family assistance policies, welfare reform, and other aspects of social policy, particularly ways of supporting the balance between work and family life. He has published extensively on various aspects of the Australian and New Zealand systems of income support. He teaches Social Policy, Society and Change (POGO8024) and Social Policy Analysis (POGO8025).

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Australian policies have been praised for an increase in child well-being since the 2008 economic crisis, but recent changes and future trends are a cause of concern, according to a Crawford School expert.

The findings in a new United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) study highlight research by Professor Peter Whiteford, Director of Crawford’s Social Policy Institute, who was member of the international reference group for the report.

The study finds that despite 2.6 million more children living below the poverty line in rich countries, the Australian child poverty rate fell from just over 19 to 13 per cent from 2008 to 2012.

Ranking 41 Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and European Union countries on child well-being since the recession, the report shows that Australia has jumped from the 19th to the 7th lowest rate of child poverty.

Whiteford says the UNICEF report highlights the Australian case because of its lessons for domestic policy around the world, in particular, it recognised policies that mitigated the impact of the downturn and the maintenance of a sound fiscal balance prior to the crisis.

“The Australian household stimulus packages were particularly well-targeted to low income families with children,” he said.

But Australia did not rank as highly in unemployment with the number of youth aged 15-24 who are not in employment, education or training increasing from 9.9 to 12.2 per cent between 2008 and 2013.

Recent changes and future trends are also strong reasons to be concerned, he added.

“While Australia seems to have improved significantly in the latest child well-being report card, the future for low income children here appears bleaker.

“The stimulus payments in 2008 and 2009 had strong positive effects on low income families with children, but other changes in family payments since then and the proposals in the 2014-15 budget will have accumulating negative impacts.”

Interested in studying with Peter Whiteford? He teaches Social Policy, Society and Change (POGO8024) and Social Policy Analysis (POGO8025).

Read a piece by Peter Whiteford on The Conversation:

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